Discussing mental health is still a taboo in our society, and we don’t always have the courage to admit “I am mentally ill and need treatment”. These days, you may have seen some celebrities talking about their mental health in public, but common people never talk and discuss such serious things, as it is taken in a negative light. And instead of supporting people having mental issues, we just make fun of them saying “ye to paagal ho gya hai” (“he/she is mad”). People are ignorant of the fact that being mad is quite different from being mentally ill.
‘Mental pain is less visible than physical pain, but it is more common and also harder to bear’ – C.S Lewis.
A study conducted by the World Health Organization in 2015, shows that one in five Indians may suffer from depression in their lifetime, equivalent to 200 million people and of course that is huge. Due to the stigma associated with mental illness, a lack of awareness, and limited access to professional help, only 10–12% of these sufferers will seek help. India is the most depressed country in the world, according to the World Health Organisation, followed by China and the USA. Below, I have shared some links to reveal data related to mental health and show how common people perceive mental illness in India:
Now, I come to my story. I was a bright student in academics, always topped my class and sometimes even my school. I was highly passionate about ideas since childhood and I perceive every concept by making a correlation with it’s application. I had a natural inclination towards entrepreneurship since childhood.
In order to give shape to my ideas, dreams, and vision after high school, I decided to study in an IIT as I come from a family in Uttar Pradesh which is not well educated and belongs to a lower middle class. As a matter of facts, I am the first graduate in my family. I felt I had no choice except joining an IIT to give shape to my ideas, so I decided to take admission in AMU +2 , and I appeared for its entrance exams which I cracked with ease. There were 360 seats in PCM whereas 50,000 students take part in entrance exams every year. It all happened in my favour. I finally got into AMU +2 in PCM. It was exciting as I was one step closer to make my dream and vision a reality.
But, the problem started when I joined coaching classes in Narayana Aligarh, where two of my seniors from school were also studying. I was quite confident that I could do better than them. I always had both of them to guide and support me. So, I already had high expectations from myself and everybody was also expecting a lot from me. Both of them got into IIT Madras- civil-engineering and IIT BHU -electrical engineering in successive years respectively. During my first demo class in coaching, the teacher was a young graduate who was taking his first class ever. He started to teach us about “solving inequalities” in a very informal way. But at that point in time, something happened to me, it felt very strange, and all of a sudden my confidence fell from a high to zero. Eventually, I realized after consulting with psychiatrists and psychologists that I was suffering from bipolar disorder.
My thoughts were uncontrollable, I was very emotionally attached to my passion and my brain was very active; I felt a heightened sense of energy and excitement from within. When that faculty member was teaching us, I kept questioning why he wasn’t telling us the reason behind all these concepts, why was he just telling us that 2+2 =4 and why not the reason behind adding these two numbers. Of course, that was irrelevant to the context at that time. Everyone else in the class was happy, but I was not – it was due to my manic phase of bipolar disorder. I just wanted to know the reason behind every concept and this led to a lot of tension and stress about why things are not working my way. I always waited for the teacher to talk about things beyond the syllabus, like why and how; I expected him to delve deeper, but it never happened and ultimately I went into complete depression.
My world shattered in front of my eyes, but I was not able to share my pain with anyone. I was scared and I feared that someone would say that I am not incapable of cracking IIT JEE. I tried my best to improve, but it never happened. Faculty members kept changing and everything around me was different but I was lost. I felt that something had changed inside me, and I tried to share these feelings with others but didn’t receive a satisfactory answer to my questions or concerns. I couldn’t get back to who I was before the demo class. It was a mental illness.
You must be wondering what kept me alive? It was my great passion for my things ; I read a lot of books but unfortunately, that also led to a lot of confusion in my mind. Sometimes, I did well at my coaching classes but not always. I couldn’t join any other classes as my family couldn’t afford it, so somehow I had to perform well in the exams. In my first attempt at the IIT entrance exam, I was unable to solve a single question with a good mind and I ultimately decided to drop out for next year. But, there were two good things that happened for me that year – I again Topped AMU +2 in PCM section and I cleared the AMU engineering entrance exam without preparing for it! joined AMU Electronics and appeared for another attempts j . I am an OBC candidate with 99.17 percentile in the board exams, so I got the Computer Science branch at MNNIT Allahabad in my first round of counseling for JEE Mains but I did not opt for that. Because I was convinced that I need to join an IIT for branch change. I didn’t realize that bipolar disorder was influencing a lot of my decisions at the time.
I had never heard of the concept of mental illness before and knew nothing about psychiatrists or psychologists. Eventually, I got into IIT BHU Ceramics where things went very smoothly for a while. It was super easy and very smooth. I was extremely happy. I also happened to join Facebook during this time and met some old friends from school online, including girls from my hometown. I was embarrassed about being in IIT Ceramics and I never admitted to anyone which branch I was studying in. But, I knew for all of them, being in an IIT institute is a big deal.
I was highly insecure, vulnerable, emotionally low, broke and lost. I just asked to one of the girls and wanted her to be my close friend because i had to share all these things with someone – but she said no. This made me feel much more insecure and lost. Over time, I befriended another girl from my old school who proposed to me after one month of conversations on the phone. Unfortunately, she was very obsessive and possessive and things did not end well. I started becoming extremely anxious and negative and incessantly started to overthink in every situation.
I became quite arrogant after this and started being very negative and aggressive towards others. Eventually, I graduated and got a job with a startup which I left and went back to my hometown. I was just unable to work according to my expectations. This is when my mom suggested that I see a psychiatrist as my mind was not calm and I just needed answers for everything. Finally, I contacted a psychologist in Varanasi and then discussed all my issues with her and now I am sharing my story with you.
After getting the help I can say that my passion is still intact, all my experiences have made me an exceptional entrepreneur, a patient optimist, a more humanitarian person, motivational speaker and overall a better person in my life and a good problem solver than ever before. So, I just want to say, always have the courage to follow and listen to your heart, intuition, imagination, feelings and always be real, truthful and transparent – this gives us the confidence to live according to our own values and terms.
Become aware of mental health, gain psychological education and never hesitate to consult a doctor or a counsellor when you are not feeling normal. Mental illnesses are common and can happen to anyone. Thank you so much for reading.